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Stories of Survivorship

As part of a groundbreaking clinical trial, Peter Ehmer received treatment for his diagnosis of stage III bladder cancer. Prior to this, he had received three months of chemotherapy, had surgery to remove his bladder and prostate and participated in a clinical trial. While on this trial, two of his lymph nodes continued to grow.
In May 2013, Joe Weber had just dropped his son off at Logan International Airport in Boston and was driving back to Connecticut when he decided to stop for a bite to eat. Before continuing his two-hour trip home, he visited the restroom and noticed an exceptional amount of blood in his urine.
Serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, Tom Jacquot faced many dangers, but he had no idea one of his greatest battles would come decades later, fighting an unfamiliar foe; cancer.
I cannot fathom the person I would be if I had not experienced cancer. Because I experienced cancer at such a young age it has shaped who I have become. I was diagnosed at the age of 13 with osteogenic sarcoma; a type of bone cancer. It taught me the immense power my actions have, not only as a cancer survivor, but as a person.
Scans revealed that Valencia, who was in her second trimester of her pregnancy at the time, had a brain tumor.
In the summer of 2014, during her last months of pregnancy, Kaitlin Eppinger began experiencing severe headaches and migraines. Usually a very active person, especially in the summer months, she noticed a lack of energy along with some new symptoms. Her doctor suggested an MRI of her brain just to be safe, which was performed at her local hospital.

Mary Ann Gunderman, a healthy 73-year old grandmother, was vacationing at the Cape last July, and enjoying one of her favorite pastimes – playing in the ocean waves. She misjudged one and it hit her in the back of her head. That night she suffered terrible shooting pains in her face. Pain that was not relieved by taking Tylenol.

Debbie Ellis, a breast cancer survivor with a stressful job, has been a smoker for over 20 years. Since 1994, Debbie has used cigarettes as a way to relieve her stress. And although she did quit once, for almost four years, she relapsed.
When Roberta Lombardi was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016, she had no idea her journey would result in a new organization, Infinite Strength, -- the foundation she created whose mission is to make medical treatments more accessible for all breast cancer patients.
Wendy Chambers leads a blessed life – she has a wonderful family, a collection of friends that have been gathered over her lifetime, and she’s had a long and successful career in consumer insights at several major corporations – most recently at Pepperidge Farm.  She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor.
As a 39 year old man, the last thought on Greg DeMarco’s mind was that he could be diagnosed with breast cancer. He noticed a stain on the shirt he was wearing, and realized it was blood and that it was coming from his left nipple. Worried that something serious might be wrong, he scheduled an appointment with his general practitioner for the next day. They ran several tests, all of which came back normal. Unable to find a cause for the bleeding, Greg was sent for a mammogram where a calcification and a blockage of his duct were found

Jesseca has had many small non-cancerous lumps (adenomas) in her breasts, so she was used to going to Smilow Cancer Hospital to be monitored every six months with mammograms and ultrasound tests. When she felt a lump in her left breast in November 2013, she fully expected to be told she had another adenoma. But this time, the radiologist told her something different.

Tuesday, August 7 is a special day for Julia Williams. Not only does that date mark five years since the surgery which removed a recurrence of her breast cancer, but it also represents five years of life—special occasions, memories, and conversations that Julia might not have experienced without her care team at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Marjorie had survived cancer before. Back in 1998 when she lived in Flushing, New York, she was diagnosed with Stage 3B cervical cancer and was treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy followed by a hysterectomy. Last October, Marjorie decided to take the train to New York, followed by a subway ride to Queens, to visit a friend. The next morning, she awoke with a pain in her outer breast. She thought it was a strained muscle from going up and down the subway stairs. After two mammograms and two ultrasounds, she met Dr. Anees Chagpar, Director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Dr. Chagpar told her that there were two masses in the outer side of her right breast.

Raffaella Zanuttini’s busy life as a Professor of Linguistics at Yale, as a wife, and as a mother of two boys, 12 and 15, does not leave her much spare time. So when her February mammogram showed more calcifications lined up in a suspicious pattern and the nurses at the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital recommended she have a biopsy, she was not ready to act. After having the biopsy done, Rafaella was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). She made an appointment with Dr. Anees Chagpar, Director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

I can't remember life without cancer being a constant shadow lurking in the distance. I was diagnosed with my first cancer, Wilms' tumor, in 1973 at the age of 2. I had one kidney removed and received chemotherapy and radiation. Because of this, I was never afforded the misconception that "it won't happen to me."
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 11. The first question I asked after my biopsy was if I could go to a school dance that night. Following that dance, I began 7 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Although the experience forced me to grow up quickly in many ways, having cancer at such a young age was more surreal than anything. After 18 years with no recurrence, I thought the worst was behind me and that I had paid my dues; cancer was “in my past.”
When Marc St. Martin was diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) in 2007, he had no way of knowing the impact it would have throughout his family.
Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer in the U.S.— more than 60,000 women will develop it this year alone and more than 10,000 will die.
Paul was having difficulty swallowing and decided to go to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. He was ultimately diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.
When I was diagnosed with stage III esophageal cancer my wife was 15 weeks pregnant. I had been having difficulty swallowing and noticed some back pain, but attributed it to acid reflux and stress.
I never knew my Dad’s sister, Aunt Pearl, because she died of breast cancer at age 52 before I was even born. Many years later my father was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer at age 79 and was treated successfully with radiation therapy. To be honest, it never occurred to me that the two cancers might be linked...
When I was pregnant with my second child I developed abdominal pain that everyone assumed was related to my pregnancy. But the pain persisted several months after I gave birth to my son and my doctor ordered a full work-up, during which I was eventually diagnosed with colon cancer.
Both Margaret’s mother and father were diagnosed with breast cancer. For this reason, she knew there was a strong possibility that she herself may be genetically predisposed to the disease. Although it was suggested that she have genetic testing at the time of her parent’s diagnoses, it wasn’t until several years later that she felt ready to receive genetic testing and find out her own risk for developing the disease.
Cancer has been a part of my family story for as long as I can remember. My sister Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 39 and I was 37. You didn’t hear about early-onset breast cancer in those days… we were shocked. A few years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer and Barbara was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Alberto Centeno had already been through a bout of stomach cancer in 2008. But in 2013, new symptoms brought him to his local ear, nose, and throat doctor, who scheduled an appointment for him with Dr. Benjamin Judson, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and head and neck surgeon at Yale Cancer Center. Alberto’s diagnosis: throat cancer.

I had no symptoms, no pain, and no weight loss. Sure, I was tired, but I thought it was from working all day. I was diagnosed with a parotid tumor, which is in your saliva gland and I was told that 99 percent of the time parotid tumors are benign. During surgery it was discovered that mine was a malignant tumor, which was later diagnosed as stage IV cancer.

Sharon’s difficulties breathing and swallowing brought her to see her ear, nose, and throat doctor in Waterbury. An ultrasound found a cancerous growth on her voicebox (larynx), and she was referred to the Head and Neck Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Eric Bowles was 16 when he noticed what he thought was a canker sore on the side of his tongue.  Over the next month the sore gradually grew, but only bothered him if directly touched.  During routine x-rays at the dentist’s office, Eric asked them to be careful since he had a spot on his tongue that was sensitive. The dentist took one look and called an oral surgeon who met with Eric the next day and performed a biopsy of the lesion.  Everyone was shocked when the diagnosis came back as squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.  

When Wendy McCabe’s dentist recommended that she have a biopsy done on a growth spotted at the base of her tongue during a routine cleaning, she didn’t think anything of it. However, when the results came back as cancer, she was shocked. Her first reaction was to ask, “Am I going to die?” Her second reaction was to assemble her support network and take action.

Denise Iorio was faced with two treatment options when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), she could take medication to control symptoms, or undergo a stem cell transplant.  After taking the medication for a while, she decided it was the right time to try for a permanent cure, so in 2009, two years after her diagnosis, she chose to have a stem cell transplant. She didn’t know it at the time, but her decision started a journey across oceans and resulted in a lifetime bond.
At her appointment with Dr. Patrick Kenney, Tammy learned that she had cancer in her right kidney that was extending into the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in the body, and up into her heart.
Jenna and Brendan Baker were faced with the most difficult challenge of their life when their seemingly healthy two year old son was diagnosed with cancer.  He went to the pediatrician with a fever that was not responding to the normal remedies. A blood test raised the suspicion for cancer and immediately Henry was sent to the Emergency Department at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital where doctors confirmed his diagnosis.  Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Jody Lamparelli was feeling optimistic as she went to her dental appointment. Two days after her dental surgery she was still in pain and her dentist immediately arranged for her to be seen at the Emergency Department. From there they put her in an ambulance and sent her to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. The diagnosis: AML - Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow. A type of cancer that usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated.

Last December, when John found himself exhausted after doing only ten laps in the Y pool, he thought he had the flu. Tests showed something different. His blood counts were way down. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed he had another cancer: acute myeloid leukemia. 

It wasn’t uncommon for Tasha Edens, a manager of a group home, to experience minor bruises while at work, they were part of the job. However, one day she came home and noticed deep purple bruising on her legs. Dr. Nikolai Podoltsev, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology), was able to confirm a diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a rare, quick moving subtype of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
An MRI showed a tumor in Gary’s liver. He was immediately sent to Smilow Cancer Hospital where additional diagnostic tests were performed. 

It was apparent from the start that Marissa Antonio’s case was unique. She was just 39 and a new mother when an MRI revealed a 19cm tumor in her liver.
When Anita Adler made her way to Smilow Cancer Hospital after being diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), she had been told there was nothing that could be done.
Bob Carlson cannot describe what a symptom of cancer feels like, even though he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. A growth was found by chance during a CAT scan and later a thoracic surgeon made the diagnosis of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, which had metastasized to his adrenal gland.
In May of 2007, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Shortly after, while testing was being done to stage the lymphoma, two small tumors were discovered on my lungs. My first reaction was tears. It seemed as though with every passing day my results got worse and worse. Then my doctor recommended that I see Dr. Scott Gettinger, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology at Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Yale Cancer Center Thoracic Oncology Program.
At the age of 55 Maureen was not ready to accept her diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer as the end. She knew there had to be options out there for her, and she sought the advice of a friend who gave her Dr. Scott Gettinger's name at Smilow Cancer Hospital. After hearing all her options, Maureen decided on an aggressive course of chemotherapy. When she could no longer tolerate the treatment regimen, she eventually entered into a clinical trial testing the efficacy of a drug known as anit-PD1 therapy, which for Maureen, was a miracle.
At the age of 23, Josh Scussell was starting his life, and like most people in their early twenties, cancer was the last thing on his mind. When he noticed a lump on his left leg in the groin area, he went to a walk-in clinic to have it examined. From that point on, Josh would encounter a lot of waiting. Once he received the results of the biopsy, which determined he had Non-Hodgkins T Cell Lymphoma, he was in shock and completely devastated.
In the fall of 2010, Dina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mucosal Melanoma, with the primary tumor residing in her rectum and metastases near her stomach, kidney, liver, and heart. Before her diagnosis, Dina was an active person who enjoyed playing tennis and going to the gym, but she noticed she was becoming unusually tired at work and had no energy when she got home.
For the past 16 years, Dick Metz has experienced the ups and downs of a cancer diagnosis. He has had clean scans and bad scans, and has experienced joys and disappointments of therapy results, but he has never faltered. Mr. Metz’s chronicle began in 2003 when his dermatologist biopsied a mole on his back and discovered Stage II Melanoma.
Mary Lynne is no stranger to ovarian cancer. Her mother, when she was in her 70s, was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and died from it six months later. Her gynecologist ordered a CA 125 test, which is often used to look for early signs of ovarian cancer in women with a high risk of the disease.
Jean Meisenheimer is a determined, decisive 62- year-old-woman, a woman of action. Ten years ago, in May of 2005, she noticed a yellowing of her skin. This rang a bell with her since there is a history of pancreatic cancer in her family.

 
Jeanne Czel went from enjoying retirement and playing golf in a benefit tournament in North Carolina, to a month later undergoing what would be one of the most difficult years of her life. It started with an uncomfortable feeling in her chest that she attributed to heart burn or acid reflux, although she had never experienced either before. She was still not feeling right, but had no alarming symptoms such as pain, or weight loss. Normally a very active person, when she started noticing loss of energy, she made an appointment to meet with her gastroenterologist. On July 21, 2011, after undergoing blood work, an MRI and a CT scan, Jeanne received a diagnosis of stage IV pancreatic cancer; it had metastasized to her liver and duodenum.

They first met in the 1970s when they were neighbors in the Westville section of New Haven, CT. Ike Baitch and his wife Adina - Israeli immigrants - had three children: Shachar, Yaron and Tammy. Michael and Jeannine McCann had two: Michele and Sean. In time the families moved to other locations in Connecticut and lost touch for about 15 years. Then in early 2013 Mike and Ike had a chance meeting when Adina spotted Jeannine at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale in New Haven.
My PSA had been high for awhile so my doctor recommended I see a urologist. A biopsy was performed and at the age of 54 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Without my routine physicals I probably wouldn’t be alive today. We were able to catch the cancer early, and that made all the difference.

When Tom Regan learned that he had prostate cancer, it brought back memories of his father, who 20 years before had lost his life to the disease. Tom assumed that he was destined for the same fate.

When 14-month-old Luke McDermott was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, his doctor told Luke’s parents that he would try to save the baby’s life, eye and vision. “That’s the order,” he said. “If we have to, we will remove his eye to save his life.”

Since 2014, Karen Daley’s life has been like a roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs that have changed her reality. The bump that she noticed on her leg a couple of years previous while moving furniture, began hurting.
Leslie Riley loves the outdoors. An avid hiker in good health, she is also a wife with a blended family that includes two daughters, two sons, and a granddaughter. So, when she felt a strange twinge in the back of her leg in April of 2016, she was concerned. The twinge became especially uncomfortable when she was driving her car, an important part of her life. Her family doctor ordered an MRI to learn more.
When Sharee Edmonds learned that three of her children had sickle cell disease, she prayed for a miracle that would cure them. That miracle came when her daughter Unity, now 17, was born. In an incredibly rare occurrence, her bone marrow was a perfect match for all three of her siblings.
Matthew Fried was twenty-two years old when he was diagnosed with stage I testicular cancer. He had just graduated college and was looking forward to beginning his Masters Degree in Music Performance at Yale University.
On a day that I believed would be like any other day, I received the news that I had a tumor the size of a golf ball growing on my thyroid.
Jeffrey Katz has thyroid cancer. He has other family members who have also been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They were all born in the same hospital and were all treated with radiation when they were newborns.
Judy, a registered nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital, wasn’t entirely shocked when she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in late October. Having worked at Yale since 1982 and as a nurse since 1976, she has cared for hundreds of cancer patients over the years; she understands first hand that cancer can happen to anyone.
Liz Nelson was just not feeling right. She knew that something strange was going on in her body. At her annual fall physical, her primary care physician found problems with her blood work. An ultrasound showed a large fibroid tumor in Liz’s uterus.